Resilient Agriculture

This page includes technical resources and tools, training materials, learning documents, research, and more.

Resilient agriculture garden
Thomas Cole, Mercy Corps

About

Around the globe, smallholder farmers and rural communities are struggling to maintain production and incomes in the face of interrelated shocks and stresses such as climate change, drought, conflict, land degradation, and erosion. Resilient agriculture approaches support farmers to address these challenges and build more adaptive and productive farming systems by working with surrounding natural systems to improve soil health and water management. 

Over the past five years, the USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA)-funded SCALE award has developed and adapted a suite of learning materials, technical tools, capacity strengthening resources, and research studies to support the implementation of resilient agriculture approaches from the initial design phase through to capturing impacts and lessons learned. These resources, featured below, can support your team to successfully implement quality resilient agriculture activities. 

If you or your organization are interested in learning more about Resilient Agriculture and the resources on this page, please contact SCALE (scale@mercycorps.org).  


Resilience Design

Resilience Design (RD) in Smallholder Farming Systems is an approach that helps farmers and those who support them better understand their farming systems within their agroecosystems. Guided by a set of principles, farmers can develop a more integrated site design in relationship to their unique community and surrounding natural systems by identifying influences that affect their farms sites as well as external resources that can benefit the site. Farmers then adjust their farm design, ultimately building a more adaptive and productive farming system that is more resilient to the increasingly frequent and intense environmental and economic shocks and stresses that affect it.

RD Technical Resources and Tools

Resilience Design in Smallholder Farming Systems Approach (ES) (FR) 2017
This technical guide includes an overview of the RD approach, detailed guidance on the RD methodology, and technical guidance on improving soil health and water management*.  The technical guide is accompanied by:

Resilience Design for Agroecological Production: Minimum Standards (FR) 2021
This technical guide provides an overview of eight minimum standards that apply to all RD sites. These standards encourage thinking differently about agricultural development and identifying ways to work with natural systems rather than against them, creating resilient and productive farming systems that enhance household food security and incomes. 

Resilience Design in Smallholder Farming Systems Approach: Checklist & Guidance (FR) 2021
This quality monitoring and management tool is used to enhance the implementation of RD interventions. The checklist is based on the RD Minimum Standards and is focused on six core technical elements of the approach that are observable and should be monitored frequently: resources, design, water, soil health, biodiversity and protection.

* This approach was developed through SCALE’s predecessor award, the Technical and Operational Performance Support (TOPS) Program, a USAID Office of Food for Peace (FFP)-funded award that ended in 2017

RD Training Materials

Resilience Design in Smallholder Farming Systems Facilitator’s Guide (COMING SOON in 2022)
This facilitator’s guide is a training tool that can be used to cascade the RD approach. Prior to using this guide to conduct a training session, facilitators should have received training in the RD approach, agroecology, or agriculture. It is also helpful for facilitators to have had experience conducting large-scale field trainings, and to understand best practices for organizing such events. 

Additional RD Resources

Resilient Agriculture Impact Assessment of the “Hill Approach” (FR) (COMING SOON in 2022)
This research study assesses the relevance, impact, and sustainability of the Hill Approach. Drawing from the RD approach, the Hill Approach was designed by the USAID/BHA-funded Food Security Program Enyanya in South Kivu in the DRC to respond to the needs of tenant farmers to reduce soil erosion, increase productivity, and increase tenure security. The report explores the outcomes of the approach for tenants, landowners, and the community, as well as implementation challenges and recommendations for improvement and replication.

Resilience Design for Water and Landscapes: The Story of The Sponge Village of Atego 2022
This primer highlights a design process for increasing community resilience to shocks and stresses. The design process is based on low-cost, low-tech, process-based solutions that mimic natural processes and ecological cycles. The primer recounts the journey of how Atego became a sponge village and how others can follow in its footsteps through RD.

How Resiliently Designed Food Systems Achieve Both NRM and Nutrition Wins 2021
This workshop, part of the 2021 Borlaug Dialogue, featured food security program examples from Kenya and the DRC focused on the environment-nutrition nexus, including a virtual walk to see the RD approach in action. 

Permagardens

The Permagarden (PG) method combines components of permaculture, an agricultural approach using design principles to utilize natural systems for production, and bio-intensive agriculture, an agricultural approach to maximize production on a small amount of land through sustainable practices that increase biodiversity. The method aims to create a highly productive garden using a small amount of land.

PG Technical Resources and Tools

Permagarden Manual (AM) (ES) (FR) 2017
This technical manual outlines the permagarden method and serves as a key resource to those working with farmers to help them incorporate permagardens into their farming systems. The manual explains key concepts in creating a permagarden and matches them with appropriate practices, such as double digging, making botanical fertilizers, bio-intensive seed spacing, multicropping, and succession planting.* The manual is accompanied by training materials below.

Permagarden: Technical Checklist & Guidance (FR) 2021
This quality monitoring and management tool is used to enhance the implementation of the Permagarden method. The checklist is based on the RD Minimum Standards and is focused on six core elements of the Permagarden approach that are readily observable and should be monitored frequently: resources, design, water, soil health, biodiversity and protection.

Revised Permagarden Manual (COMING SOON in 2022)
This revised technical manual expands the focus of a small kitchen garden to integrate opportunities throughout the compound. This compound-level Permagarden Technical Manual provides updates to reflect the latest guidance, best practices, and lessons learned since the Permagarden Approach was originally developed.

Permagarden Proposal Tipsheet (COMING SOON in 2022)
This tipsheet contains practical recommendations on incorporating Permagardens into proposals, including considerations regarding timing, resourcing, staff, overall program design, and monitoring. 

Permagardens: Qualitative and Quantitative Survey Tools (COMING SOON in 2022)
These tools support program teams to capture data on the impacts on their permagarden activities, including via a quantitative survey and qualitative focus group discussions with permagarden participants. The tools can be tailored for specific program contexts and learning objectives. 

* This approach was developed through the USAID/FFP TOPS Program.

PG Training Materials

Permagarden Foundations Course (FR) (COMING SOON in 2022)
This online course comprises a series of nine short videos and complementary ‘how-to’ materials that introduce the foundations of the Permagarden Method and how to apply them. The course first explores the basics of a permagarden and how it contributes to household resilience; then details the building blocks of a permagarden (water, soil, and biodiversity); and concludes by introducing a four-step cyclical process to develop and maintain a permagarden (observe, design, implement, and monitor).

Permagarden Videos (FR) 2021
This video series introduces the Permagarden Approach and how to implement it step-by-step. The videos focus on water management, building healthy soils using local resources, and strengthening local capacity. The videos were created by the USAID/BHA-funded Food Security Program Enyanya in DRC with the support of SCALE.

Permagarden Three-day Training Guidelines and Permagarden Adult Education Training Resources 2017
The three-day training materials are intended for trainers who have completed a five-day permagarden training and plan to train farmers in this method. Training materials include the Three-Day Training Guidelines and Adult Education Training Resources.

Additional PG Resources

How Permagardens and Kitchen Gardens Contribute to Household Food Security: An Assessment of Gardens in Nepal 2020
This report presents the findings from a study of the USAID/BHA-funded Promoting Agriculture, Health and Alternative Livelihoods (PAHAL) program’s permagarden and kitchen garden activities, one component of the program’s broader food security and resilience-building strategy. The Mercy Corps-led PAHAL program in Nepal aimed to improve access, availability and use of food and income with associated health and nutrition benefits through improved agricultural production and marketing. 

The Permagarden Pathway to Resilience & Food Security: Lessons in Scaling Up from Nepal and Uganda 2020
This webinar covered the Permagarden Method as part of agriculture, nutrition, and multisectoral programming. Mercy Corps and African Women Rising share challenges, successes, and evidence around implementing and scaling permagardens. 

Additional Resilient Agriculture Resources

The following are resources that support quality implementation of Resilient Agriculture activities through training, mentoring, and cascading, as well as other key Resilient Agriculture resources. 

Training, Mentoring, and Cascading

Best Practices: Cascading Resilient Agriculture Approaches within Food Security Programs (COMING SOON in 2022)
This document presents a set of best practices for BHA-funded program staff to consider when cascading resilient agriculture approaches to partner organizations, agricultural extension staff and farming communities. The practices are based on RFSA evaluations and incorporate past learning on adaptive management, mentorship and the use of demonstration sites, as well as adult learning principles and social and behavior change studies. 

Social and Behavior Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (COMING SOON in 2022)
This document highlights key learnings from studies conducted by the USAID/BHA-funded Amalima Loko program in Zimbabwe around the barriers and motivations for behavior change in agriculture and natural resource management (NRM) practices in its implementation area. It explores insights and highlights issues that are broadly applicable to the work of designing and implementing social and behavior change (SBC) approaches in these sectors. 

Triggering Change: Five Pivotal Moments in Permagarden & Resilience Design Training 2022
This learning brief summarizes five pivotal moments that helped participants understand the RD approach during a training in Zimbabwe in October 2021. The moments include: seeing examples of Resilience Design in practice; putting theory into practice; the sponge demonstration; translating rainfall to banked water resources; and witnessing abundant biodiversity.

Resilience Design Mentorship Pilot: Approach, Findings, and Lessons Learned 2020 
This report summarizes the methodology, findings from the baseline and endline surveys, and lessons learned from an agriculture mentorship project that SCALE piloted in the DRC from May 2019-March 2020. The pilot mentorship initiative included a small group of agriculture technical staff from the USAID/BHA-funded Food Security Program Enyanya. 

Other Key Resources

Ecological Market Farm (COMING SOON in 2022)
This is a thought piece on how to integrate market systems development (MSD) and resilient agriculture approaches to achieve more sustainable, profitable, and healthy ecosystems. Ecological Market Farms (EMF) are one way to integrate market- and resilience design-based approaches in practice. This document explores these ideas and highlights considerations for practitioners.

Fertilizing with Organic Materials for Smallholder Farmers in Emergency and Non-Emergency Contexts 2022
This guidance document was developed in response to the multiple threats of rising global fertilizer prices, declining soil fertility, and increased prevalence of climate shocks faced by smallholder farmers. The techniques rely on basic plant nutrition concepts and are sufficiently flexible so that program staff can tailor their messages to the context at hand. This document can be used by non-agricultural program staff, and the language is therefore kept straightforward and concise.

Agroecology in Action: Pathways to Resilient Food Systems 2020
This conversation brought together international practitioners, researchers, and private sector partners to reflect on the role of agroecological approaches in building sustainable, regenerative, and resilient food systems. 

Small Scale Agroecological Approaches for the COVID-19 Response and Beyond 2020
This was an interactive discussion on what makes a garden resilient and the contributions of household gardens to food security and nutrition drawing on experiences from Uganda to Vietnam and across the global food security community.